The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program could suffer delays should the United States and Turkey fail to come to agreement on the ongoing dispute regarding Ankara’s decision to buy the Russian-made S-400 weapon system, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said May 10.
“We see a potential slowing down of some deliveries over the next two years, [and] some potential cost impacts,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said at a Friday media briefing at the Pentagon. “But right now, we believe we can minimize both of those and are working on refining” a solution, she said.
The magnitude of the potential impact is currently being determined, she added.
The Pentagon has been looking at alternate sources for the F-35 supply chain inside of Turkey for “some time now,” Lord noted. “That being said, we continue to work with Turkey and hope that they will use a NATO-compliant system for their air defense system.”
Lord added that the department is currently “honing down” on how quickly it could transfer to new suppliers should the countries fail to reach an agreement. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the Joint Strike Fighter.
The Pentagon announced April 1 that plans to ship Ankara’s two current F-35As from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona to Turkey had been postponed, and that it had begun searching for alternate suppliers for the Turkish-made parts as the nation’s leaders refuse to back down on their decision to procure the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system (Defense Daily, April 1).
“We have been very clear that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible,” Lord said. “We have had Turkey as a NATO ally for many years. They’re also a very good supplier on the F-35 program.”
NATO partners are “very supportive” of the Pentagon’s efforts to push Turkey away from the S-400 procurement, Lord said, adding that she saw many of the member-nations in Brussels in April at the Council of National Armaments Directors.
The alternate system that the department is offering Turkey is the Patriot system, she added. “That’s a … NATO-compliant solution.”
The State Department last December approved a $3.5 billion potential sale of the Raytheon [RTN]-made Patriot battery to Turkey, which would include 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced and 60 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles (Defense Daily, Dec. 19, 2018).
Turkey is one of nine partner countries that are involved in producing components of the F-35. Lawmakers from both chambers have recently introduced bills that would prohibit Turkey from receiving the Joint Strike Fighter should it refuse to forgo the S-400 system (Defense Daily, May 3).